The guitar is one of the easiest instruments to sing and play to, but many guitarists have a difficult time getting their footing when it comes to mastering this important skill. Depending on what style you play in, singing over guitar chords, riffs, and melodies can be a huge transition to make for players who aren’t used to it, but the Musika Lessons blog is here to help! We’ve got some great tips on making learning how to sing and play guitar at the same time easier for beginners.
Nail Down the Basics First
Before you try to sing and play the guitar simultaneously, you should have guitar basics mastered to the point where playing things like chords and scales are second nature. Trying to sing and play at the same time will only work if you have a solid grasp on what it is you’re playing. Our brains aren’t really the best at multitasking, so we won’t be able to sing and play simultaneously if we don’t know how to play the guitar yet.
This doesn’t mean that you need to wait years to develop into a virtuosic guitarist before you attempt to sing and play the guitar. Taking a few months to master simple chord transitions and scales will get you where you need to be if you want to learn how to sing and play guitar at the same time. You’ll be able to develop the skills you need to sing and play when you can play simple things on the guitar without much thought or effort.
Start Slow and Simple
If you try to learn by singing over complex guitar melodies at blazing speeds, you probably won’t get very far. Think back to when you first learned how to play the guitar. Did you learn to play things like scales, chords, and riffs by starting quickly or slowly or quickly? Did you jump into complex material, or did you start with a few easy chords and scales? Most likely, you started out playing simple material at a very slow tempo. Learning how to sing and play guitar at the same time shouldn’t be any different, so start slow and simple.
It’s a good idea to learn to sing over some simple chords instead of riffs while learning how to sing and play guitar at the same time. Let’s start with the G and C major chords.
Strum and sing chord names at the same time:
Start by strumming and singing the note name of each chord in unison. Simple quarter notes here are fine. The notes you sing should be the roots of the chords you’re playing.
Once you get more confident, keep strumming the chords with simple quarter notes but sing the note names with different rhythms. This can be a little like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time, but it’s meant to develop independence between your vocals and guitar playing.
As you improve, add in more chords, rhythms, and vocal melodies. For example, a good place to try to get to is where you’re able to play a simple eighth note strumming pattern over three chords while singing a simple vocal melody of a different rhythm at the same time. Try playing eighth notes over these chords while holding out whole notes with your vocal melody. We’ll add in a D chord for this example.
All of the examples above should be played to the slow click of a metronome. It’s absolutely essential that your rhythm is as solid as possible here. Lots of students struggle with this, but playing and singing to a sloppy rhythm is the thing most likely to derail your efforts. That’s also why it’s a good idea to start slow and gradually increase the speed as you improve.
Vocal Range and Style
So far, we’ve pretty much exclusively focused on the guitar side of things, but your vocal range and style is just as important. Before you attempt to sing and play the guitar, you should take plenty of time exploring your singing voice. There’s no better way to do this than by singing along to songs you know and love. Once you know a song well enough, try singing it without the track playing. Once you hear your voice all by itself, you’ll be able to find out exactly what your unique voice sounds like.
Choosing a Song to Sing and Play
The first song you attempt to sing and play should be one that features a simple melody played over basic chords. The song you choose should be one that you know really well because you don’t want to have to worry about not knowing melodies or lyrics while you’re trying to sing and play. A good folk, punk, or rock song is a great place to start. The song you choose should have chords that you won’t have any trouble playing.
If singing and playing the song you’ve chosen is difficult at first, try humming the melody while you strum the chord progressions. This will at least get you started so you can get comfortable enough to sing and play.
Adapting the Song to Your Specific Vocal Range
When you start figuring out how to sing and play guitar at the same time, you’ll quickly learn that some of your favorite songs are out of your vocal range. For instance, if you’ve got a really low voice, you simply won’t be able to sing songs by The Smashing Pumpkins or Bright Eyes for example. Luckily, songs on the guitar can be adapted to fit your specific vocal range. There’s a few ways to do this.
The first and easiest way is with a capo. A capo is a simple device that can alter the range of your guitar by clamping onto a fret. For example, if you apply the capo to the second fret and play a G major chord shape, the new chord you’ll get would be an A major.
The second way would be to adjust the chords up or down to accommodate your specific vocal range. If you’re not super familiar with music theory, this might be tricky for you. For example, if you see a chord progression like G-D-Am-C in a song that’s too high for you range, you could move everything down one whole-step (or two frets) and play F-C-Gm-Bb instead. But you’ll need to be able to transpose the song’s melody down as well, and that’s not an easy thing to do for someone just starting out. Like everything in music, it takes practice to develop the skill it takes to do this.
Putting in the hours it takes to learn how to sing and play guitar at the same time can be difficult, but the payoff is a unique skill you’ll carry with you for a lifetime. There’s nothing quite like listening to someone passionate and experienced sing and play the guitar. If you’ve been at it for a while and aren’t seeing results, we recommend finding a good teacher in your area to help you solidify your skills and get you out of your rut. For more helpful articles about the world of music, check out the Musika Lessons blog.